Plenty evidence to justify £1 billion target for Scottish screen sector - Brian Ferguson

Leith Docks was bathed in bright sunshine for a media call which had all the makings of heralding a new dawn for Scotland’s film and TV sector.

The new FirstStage Studios complex in Leith has already attracted the Amazon series The Rig and Anansi Boys. Picture: Liam Anderstrem
The new FirstStage Studios complex in Leith has already attracted the Amazon series The Rig and Anansi Boys. Picture: Liam Anderstrem

The conditions were apt for the launch of long-awaited new research promising to paint the first “clear picture” of the scale, value and impact of the screen industry and its various spin-offs.

There was certainly much to catch the eye in the report, not least the fact that the film and TV have been valued at £567 millon for the Scottish economy and are believed to support more than 10,000 full-time jobs.

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Given that the industry was last valued at around £95 million, when the Scottish Government agency Screen Scotland was launched four years ago, the industry would appear to have undergone a remarkable transformation.

Screen Scotland made it clear that it would be casting the net much wider than had been done in the past, to include cinemagoing, screen-related tourism, film festivals and the contribution of broadcasters.

While that would go some way to explain the huge hike in the overall economic impact figure, film and TV productions are said to be worth around £315 million on their own – three times as much as they were in 2017.

Delayed significantly by the pandemic, the research actually dates back to 2019, a year which saw the Netflix Eurovision movie, the Fast and Furious franchise and HBO drama Succession all filmed in Scotland.

It is perhaps understandable if some people question the value of findings now three years out of date and overtaken by the impact of Covid.

Yet the sector has undoubtedly undergone a remarkable boom since the pandemic.

The FirstStage Studios complex in Leith Docks has since hosted two Amazon series, The Rig and Anansi Boys, while a third, Good Omens, was made at the Pyramids in Bathgate, facilities which are now industry cornerstones, along with the recently-converted Kelvin Hall in Glasgow.

There is plenty of evidence elsewhere of a significant increase in filming compared to the pre-Covid years, including filming on the new Netflix series One Day and feature film thriller Kill getting underway.

All this would suggest that there is plenty to justify setting a bullish target of getting the value of the industry over the £1 billion mark.

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